Getting a vehicle through customs and out of port in Montevideo, Uruguay
In this 2 page report I describe the procedures to retrieve an unaccompanied RoRo-shipped foreign vehicle from the port in Montevideo in Uruguay.
UPDATE February 2016
One of our readers sent in several small updates via our contact form. You can find them at the end of this post (page 2)!
First the good news: you can do this yourself without a customs agent, providing you have some basic Spanish. The bad part was, that the instructions given by the people involved weren’t clear, and in fact some information was plain wrong. I want to help you with my step-by-step report.
Before you start you will need some cash US Dollars, actually a good bundle of it (plan on $900 – $1400 depending on the size and value of your vehicle). The good news here, particularly for Europeans, is that there are plenty of money changers in Montevideo and, with a bit of shopping around, you can get the same, or sometimes even a better, rate than you find at the time on the internet (e.g. on xe.com ) for larger quantities of Euro cash. I would not expect that you get better rates at your bank at home. This makes Montevideo also a good place to stock up on Dollars for Argentina, where the black market exchange for US cash is much better than the official rate (compare dolarblue.net ).
First you will need a “Certificado Ingreso del Pais”, which you get at the “Dirección Nacional de Migración” in Misiones 1513 (Ciudad Vieja, there’s a Citybank diagonally across). You can do this, with only your passport, during the time that you are waiting for your vehicle to arrive. Enter, take a ticket number, and expect to wait for around an hour, so take something to read or some Sudokus to solve; if you’re getting hungry there’s a bakery across the street. The process is now computerised, so once you’re served it’s rather quick, except that the line at the cashier (153 Pesos at time of writing) can be long.
Then the wait begins for the sea freight company to contact you about arrival of the vessel. Mine was Grimaldi, who have an office at Rincón 602 on the corner of Plaza de Constitución; they open at 10 in the morning. Note: you can only start the entire process, at the earliest, the day after the vessel has been unloaded (you will read why later).
Everything you have to organise can be done on foot. Ciudad Vieja is rather compact, so distances aren’t too strenuous (just watch out for the ever present dog poo and wear comfy shoes).
You need to take the following documents:
- plenty $US cash (Euros aren’t accepted)
- your passport
- vehicle identification papers
- your Certificado Ingreso del Pais (see above)
- your Bill of Lading, which you should have received by mail before departing your home country
First you have to go to your freight agency, pay a landing fee (in my case $531), get a receipt and a stamp on your Bill of Lading. When I was at the Grimaldi/KMA office it was actually rather claustrophobic with 9 people crammed into an 8 square meter reception room, which had 3 doors plus a counter, all waiting for freight papers.
Next you have to go to the receiving freight company, who basically check your Bill of Lading and payment of the landing fee, and then confirm this with another stamp. In my case this was Universal Shipping in Colón 1498 (about 5-6 blocks from Rincón) on the 3rd floor, where I happened to meet Elias Cuadro (who works for Universal and speaks English very well) in the lift; he was very helpful throughout the initial process!
Now you should have all documents to go to customs, but they want a complete set of photocopies, so find a copy shop (relatively easy in Ciudad Vieja, otherwise there is one in the basement of the customs office, which might charge a few Pesos more) – get ONE copy each (around 2 Pesos/copy) of
- your passport’s photo page;
- your vehicle identification papers;
- your stamped Bill of Lading;
- possibly of your “Certificado Ingreso del Pais” (I handed in the original, because this is the only place where it’s required).
Then head to the main customs building, Aduanas, at the Buquebus entrance to the harbour (Rambla 25 do Agosto), the grey building with a round tower on top. Take the side entrance on the right of the building and go half a floor up into the room with the long row of counters, find the right person and hand over your documents and copies.
[This is where my first hiccup happened: customs didn’t have file number for my vehicle yet. This number is the result of several processes before. First the receiving freight company has to create a “manifesto” (= a list of all items received from one particular barque), then this is sent out to the storage companies, who store the goods inside the harbour until cleared. The storage companies have to create a “stock number” for each item, which in turn creates a file number for customs. My stock number wasn’t in the system yet! This caused me a lot of running around and finally an extended lunch break – the details of which I won’t bore you with. With help from Elias of Universal Shipping this got cleared up. My conclusion: better not start too early in the hope of getting everything done in one day!]
Customs will need some time (around one hour) to process your documents. Unfortunately there’s no waiting room; if it’s nice weather there are some benches outside under the trees. When I went it was raining heavily, so I went to a coffee shop nearby. The main Uruguayan government run tourist office is on the right side of the entrance gate; during our last trip we found them very helpful, so this might be another place to spend the waiting period.
Once you have collected the processed papers from customs you have to go to the port authority, “Administración Nacional de Puertos” (ANP), who are in an imposing block shaped high-rise diagonally across the road from customs on Rambla 25 do Agosto. On the ground floor you go to the right to room number 4 (don’t listen to the person at reception, who might send you to room number 11 – that’s for locals). Here you pay the port charges.
Attention: the port charges are calculated by weight and the value of your vehicle! The weight is usually in your Bill of Lading, but you should set the value of your vehicle (unrealistically) low! In my case a lowering of the value by $10,000 made a difference of over $500 in port charges. I still had to pay whopping $681 after taking the 10 grand off… My sincere ‘Thank You’ to the person who let me get away with this!
Once ANP has processed your paper work you are sent to the cashier a few counters down in the entrance hall, where you hand over your cash and get a receipt, one sheet (red) for you, the second (blue) to hand in later at another ANP office (I still have both).
Okay, time to check what time it is! If it is after 5pm you’re stuck and done for the day, because the Buquebus terminal closes at that time (as happened to me: it was 17:08!).
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